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De Colores: What you need to know about this colorful song

By Nuria Santamaría Wolfe

One of the most iconic children’s songs in Spanish is De Colores, a joyous celebration of farm life in the springtime. It conjures up beautiful images of colorful fields and lively farm animals. The song is now synonymous with Mexican folklore but its origin can be traced back to Spain. It is believed that the song came out of the Roman Catholic Church’s Cursillo movement, which focused on training laypeople to become Christian leaders through three day “cursos” or courses. The song includes a few Christian references across its 10 verses, which are often omitted in popular renditions. 

The song has been a mainstay in preschools and elementary schools across the United States. Spanish teachers have used the song for generations to teach vocabulary and concepts including: 

  • The seasons and nature through the song’s reference to the blooming fields in the springtime, the sun, and rainbows.
  • The colors of the spectrum from the name of the song itself to the specific colors called out throughout the verses. 
  • Animals and the sounds they make from the onomatopoeic verse that includes the “quiri quiri quiri” of hen and the “pío pío pío” of her baby chicks. 

Beyond the classroom, the song has become a unifying song for the largely Mexican and Mexican American community of farmworkers across the country. The song became the unofficial anthem of the Farmworker Movement — a movement led by activists including Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, to establish workers’ right to organize and secure better pay and working conditions on farms. 

So the next time you sing along to De Colores with your little ones, take the opportunity to explore the multiple concepts that make it such a classic children’s song. And to double the learning, check out Canticos’ De Colores bilingual video, which includes a Spanish version and an original English adaptation of the song. You can also find De Colores in the bilingual board books and gift sets in the Canticos shop here

If you want to learn more about traditional Latino children’s songs, check out El Jarabe Tapatío, Sana Sana, Colita de Rana, and Cucú, Cantaba la Rana.

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